Northwestern (12-2, 1-0) opened up Big Ten play with an 87-77 victory over Penn State in Happy Valley. Northwestern shot the lights out early on, and, aside from a late 14-2 run by the Nittany Lions at the end, dominated the game. Here are player grades from the win:
Scottie Lindsey: A+
31 points, five rebounds, two assists, one block, one steal, one turnover on 9-of-14 FG, 5-of-8 3FG, 8-of-9 FT in 35 minutes
It was a career day for Lindsey, who got going from the opening tip. Lindsey was a threat from deep as per usual and got to the basket with authority. He kept the offense going when things got stagnant midway in the second half, and there was a clear drop-off in production when he left the game with three fouls not long after halftime. Lindsey is coming into his own in his junior year, and he’s playing at an All-Big Ten level right now. He has been Northwestern’s most consistent offensive threat this season, and Tuesday was no different. He also did this:
Bryant McIntosh: A-
11 points, five rebounds, eight assists, two turnovers on 5-of-13 FG, 1-of-4 3FG in 36 minutes
McIntosh didn’t shoot the ball especially well, but he got Northwestern into its offense and did well as a facilitator. His shooting is a storyline to watch as Big Ten play unfolds, and for good reason. He can impact the game just as much as a passer and playmaker, though, and that was on full display against the Nittany Lions. Northwestern didn’t need him to score a lot to beat Penn State, so he did his job by taking care of the ball and playing solid defense.
Vic Law: A
12 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three turnovers on 4-of-9 FG, 1-of-4 3FG, 3-of-4 FT in 30 minutes
Law helped the Wildcats build a big lead in the first half with his shooting from the outside, and his shot cooled off as the game went on. Without Dererk Pardon, Northwestern needed Law on the glass, and he delivered. He skied for several key rebounds, and also chipped in five assists, including this sweet dish to Gavin Skelly:
Putting together film on Skelly, this is how he scores in the paint. High IQ, looks for chances to cut/drive the lane. pic.twitter.com/andgv5Iv4Q— Big Ten Geeks (@bigtengeeks) December 27, 2016
Head coach Chris Collins called Law a “jack-of-all-trades” before the season started, and that’s exactly what Law was against Penn State.
Sanjay Lumpkin: B
Three points, seven rebounds, two assists, one block, one steal, one turnover on 1-of-1 FG, 1-of-2 FT in 24 minutes
It was a relatively quiet and nondescript afternoon for Lumpkin, who had to go out of the game early in the second half after picking up his fourth foul. He battled inside and played good defense, even though got into foul trouble. He didn’t try to force the issue offensively, though, and played his role well.
Gavin Skelly: A
12 points, five rebounds, two blocks, one steal, two turnovers on 4-of-9 FG, 2-of-2 3FG, 2-of-2 FT in 29 minutes
Skelly played big minutes again with Dererk Pardon out and battled all game long. One of his threes gave Northwestern a lot of momentum in the second half, and his movement off the ball was stellar. You can’t quite quantify the impact Skelly has on the game by just looking at his stats; his energy and hustle keep plays and possessions alive, and his post defense is irreplaceable with Pardon is out.
Barrett Benson: B
Six points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals on 2-of-4 FG, 2-of-5 FT in 15 minutes
The freshman center looks to be getting more and more comfortable every game, and turned in a solid performance in Happy Valley. His work on the offensive glass led to fouls and easy baskets, and he hit a nice midrange jumpshot to open the second half. He still needs to learn how to defend without fouling, but he doesn’t look completely overmatched when he’s on the floor. He’s gaining valuable experience with Pardon out of the lineup, and will give Northwestern added depth moving forward when Pardon returns.
Isiah Brown: C+
Nine points, one block on 2-of-9 FG, 1-of-4 3FG, 4-of-4 FT in 16 minutes
Brown continues to show flashes of brilliance — he hit a nice three at the end of the first half and can break a defense down off the dribble — but his efficiency was lacking once again. He has to stay aggressive when he’s on the floor, but his shot selection must improve. He took too many tough and contested shots Tuesday, and forced several drives on which he had to look to the officials to bail him out. He’s still a work in progress as a true freshman, but his talent is clear.
Nate Taphorn: C
Three points, two rebounds, one turnover on 1-of-4 FG, 1-of-4 3FG in 13 minutes
Taphorn came in a hit a three at the end of the first half, but he didn’t contribute much else. He’s still a liability on the defensive end, so when the threes aren’t falling, as was the case against Penn State, he struggles to impact the game.
Jordan Ash: INC
Two minutes played
Ash played briefly in the first half, but he didn’t do much of anything.